Why did you start selling Big Issue North?
I started selling the magazine because I had a problem with my documents. I’m originally from Warsaw in Poland, but I’ve lived in England since 1999. In 2006 I only had an ID card and everywhere I looked for work they needed different identification. I didn’t have it and didn’t have the documents to apply for new ID so what choice did I have? I had to start selling the magazine.
“I can usually stop on someone’s floor but sometimes sleep rough.”
Where do you live at the moment?
Nowhere really. I live mostly with friends, colleagues. I don’t have many friends, maybe two after 17 years. I can usually stop on someone’s floor but sometimes I rough sleep. I’m looking for social housing but it takes
30 days to process the application so I have to take care of myself until I hear back from them.
What other jobs have you done?
Before I had the problem with my ID, I worked in England as a chef and in factories; I have even been an assistant manager. I completely understand why the government is changing the rules but it’s making it harder for me to find work. I agree with Brexit but the rules on immigration and EU workers should apply to people coming to this country now rather than people like me. I’ve been here almost half my life. England is my home.
What made you decide to move to England?
I changed country for my life. Since 2006 I’ve only been back to Poland once. When I came I spoke no English. My first words were “good morning”. In Poland you will work really hard and no matter what job you get, after you pay rent and bills you have nothing left. Here there are more opportunities. England is changing but it is still better than Poland.
What is changing in England?
It is stricter to get work. Without money you can’t get a house, without an address you can’t get a job. I’m glad England is leaving the EU – they’ve been paying so much money and what have they got back? Nothing. It will get worse before it gets better though. Everything is changing – social work, council support, benefits, housing, everything. It’s getting worse because the government has no money but it will get better now they have left the EU. It will take time but it will get better.
What do you hope for in the future?
I think I have a flat lined up in York but it’s not ready yet. When I move in I can get a couple of jobs. Everything is set up there for a new life for me. Whilst I wait for that I’m just selling the magazine.
What is it like selling the magazine?
Of course any job when you start is hard but after a while if you stick it out people get to know you, you build up regular customers and it becomes much easier to sell the magazines. I don’t receive any benefits at the moment so if I don’t sell any magazines I have no money.
Do you have a message for your customers?
I appreciate my customers, even those who cannot afford the magazine but say hello. I think if you help somebody, then help comes back to you. Please give everybody a chance. Please give me a chance.
Interview: Genevieve Waite